Summertime is in full swing, and that means kids are home for the summer and families are looking for ways to connect. At Fossil Rim, we believe that learning about nature and your place in it can be as fun and engaging as any other summer activity. That’s why we’ve gathered a few of our favorite ways for families to connect to the natural world together outside of a classroom.
1. iNaturalist and other natural ID apps
One of the best ways to encourage your kids to truly connect with nature is by giving them the resources necessary to identify different plants and animals. Familiarity with a subject brings you closer to it, and that’s exactly what identification apps like iNaturalist are here for. It’s as simple as downloading the app, snapping a photo of any insect, animal, or plant, and uploading it. If you know what you’ve photographed, you can ID it yourself. Otherwise, you can seek advice from thousands of fellow naturalists and scientists to help you figure out what you’re looking at. Even better, once uploaded, scientists can use the information you gathered in their own research. It’s all of the thrill of being a scientist right in your own backyard!
Visit iNaturalist’s site here to learn more.
You can also check out similar sites like Zooniverse for a related experience.
2. Backyard Campout
Wanting to experience a night in nature without completely abandoning your creature comforts? We recommend a classic backyard campout. This is a great opportunity to learn about how different plants and animals react to time changes. Why don’t crickets chirp during the day? Where do some mammals sleep at night? Focusing on small but interesting questions like this can help kids of all ages connect their habits to those of other creatures.
Got a telescope at home? If not, don’t worry! There are plenty of apps nowadays to help you learn about constellations and the cycle of the moon. Try Star Tracker, or even NASA’s official app.
3. Go Mothing!
Mothing, also known as sky fishing, is a great way to learn about insects using items you already have at home. All you need is a light-colored sheet that you can hang in your yard, and a bright flashlight to shine on it. The light will attract all kinds of insects, most famously moths, to land on the sheet where they can be observed up close. You can even combine this activity with an identification app or book to help you learn more about the native species you’re observing.
4. Game Cameras
Not many animals are comfortable coming out when humans are around. Game cameras are a great, passive way to observe animals’ natural behaviors without endangering them or yourself. Learn about what animals call your yard home, and consider ways to coexist peacefully with them. Not only is it exciting to be surprised each day by what your camera caught, but game cams provide an awesome opportunity to learn about sharing our space with nature.
5. Set Up a Wildlife Sanctuary
Creating a designated space for plants and animals at home doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. Even if you live in an apartment building, something as simple as a window box of native flowers, a birdbath or feeder, or even a bee or bat house can provide endless opportunities for observation. What animals seem most drawn to your set up? What else could you provide for them now that you know? Teaching kids to give back to nature encourages them to look at the world around them in a new and exciting way.
There are endless ways to engage your kids with nature this summer, and all the seasons in between. Whether you take from this list or come up with your own ideas, the importance of getting outside cannot be overstated. Finally, don’t forget to bring the whole family out to Fossil Rim to see conservation in action, and to learn more about what you can do to help.